The United States has laid out all the concessions it’s prepared to make in order to rejoin the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, a senior administration official said on the eve of a fourth round of talks on bringing Washington and Tehran back into full compliance with the deal.
The official, who spoke to reporters on a conference call on May 6, said Iran shouldn't expect major new concessions, and success or failure now depends on Iran making the political decision to accept those concessions and to return to compliance with the accord.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview it was unclear whether Iran is prepared to make the decisions necessary to return to full compliance with the agreement.
“They unfortunately have been continuing to take steps that are restarting dangerous parts of their program that the nuclear agreement stopped. And the jury is out on whether they’re prepared to do what’s necessary,” he said in an interview broadcast on May 6 on NBC.
The talks, which are taking place in Vienna, are focused on creating a road map for Washington to lift sanctions on Iran and for Tehran to reinstate restrictions on its nuclear program that were laid out in the original deal.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, the head of Iran’s delegation, said after the third round of talks ended on May 1 that Tehran stands by its demand for the United States to lift sanctions across a range of sectors, including oil, banking, and most individuals and institutions.
Araqchi told Iranian media there was progress despite the differences, but European diplomats from the so-called E3 -- France, Britain, and Germany -- said the talks had moved very slowly.
The talks began last month with senior officials from China, Germany, France, Russia, Britain, and Iran -- the remaining parties to the deal – taking part. The United States does not have a representative at the table because it left the deal, but European diplomats are acting as intermediaries between the Iranian and U.S. delegations in Vienna.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said he wants the United States to rejoin the deal, which former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, reimposing sanctions against Tehran. Iran responded as of 2019 by breaching many of the deal's limits on its nuclear activities.
In parallel with the nuclear talks, Iranian media reported last weekend that there was an agreement between Tehran and Washington for the release of prisoners held by each side.
Washington and London have dismissed or downplayed the reports, as well as others that have said the United States is considering unfreezing some Iranian assets.
The latest report on the unfreezing of assets came on May 6 when CNN reported that $1 billion in Iranian funds could be unfrozen for use in humanitarian relief.
The funds would be allocated to the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, which was set up last year to allow humanitarian to be sent to Iran without violating U.S. sanctions, the report said.
The Iranian funds have been frozen in accounts in the United States and their release could serve as a goodwill gesture, according to sources quoted by CNN. But the plan is facing opposition from some members of Congress who view unfreezing Iranian funds as diminishing U.S. leverage.